Understanding the Five Energies of TCVM…Part 2…A Chinese Pattern



Part of how I assess and diagnose a pet is by performing a Chinese Pattern Diagnosis. This TCVM approach is made up of the Five Element Theory (see inset) plus the Eight Principles. They are divided into:

The Five Elements are the natural occurring elements and include Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each of these elements is associated with an organ system in the body. Wood is associated with the Liver. Fire is associated with the Heart. Earth is associated with the Spleen. Metal is associated with the Lung. Water is associated with the Kidney.

Each organ system works both independently of the others and also works together to promote (support) or control the others. This relationship of “checks and balances” is based on the philosophy of how a family dynamic should work. For example, you’d understand me if I said that Wood supports and nourishes Fire, right? Sure, it makes sense. In the same way, Liver (wood) supports and nourishes the Heart (fire). Here’s another example that helps guide the approach I take with pets:

Water can control Fire, just as the Kidney controls the Heart.

There’s another, more specific way to look at the body systems and how they relate to each other. Many refer to the body systems as having a family dynamic. In the family dynamic, the parent supports and nourishes the child whereas the grandparent will help to control the grandchild. For instance, with this analogy, when we see a dog with a “wood” or liver condition, western medicine may simply treat the liver condition. The TCVM approach will immediately look for a pattern diagnosis, looking directly at the “water” system — or the kidneys, because, water nourishes wood.

Let’s give one more example. Let’s assume I’m looking at a dog with stomach upset, constant diarrhea. Yuck! Clearly, we want to stop the madness… quickly. Western Medicine (conventional medicine) offers us great pharmaceuticals that can help your pup feel better quickly and reduce your clean up time… STAT! But we also want to find out what caused the stomach upset so we can avoid it in the future.

The Chinese Pattern Diagnosis tells us that fire (the heart) nourishes the earth (spleen and stomach) in much the same way as a parent nourishes a child and that wood (the liver) controls the earth (spleen and stomach) much the same way as a grandparent controls a grandchild. This dog could have a primary problem of the Spleen (GI tract) or the Spleen could be over controlled by the grandparent (in this case, the Liver) resulting in a suppression or deficiency. It’s also possible that the diarrhea is secondary to a parent that is over supporting its child (In this case, the heart in excess over nourishing the Spleen.) resulting in the symptom of diarrhea.

The Five Element theory helps us as veterinarians (and you as pet parents) to assign a particular organ system to the symptom expressed by the patient, and the Chinese pattern diagnosis helps us determine the root cause of any distress or disease your dog is experiencing.

When performing a Chinese Pattern Diagnosis, we want to know if the symptoms we’re seeing are indicative of an excess or deficiency in one or more body symptoms. This will help us get to the root cause of whatever is bothering your dog and point us towards a solution as well. Excess conditions are diseases of “too much”. Excess patterns are usually found in the young dog, the condition usually acute and coming on quickly.

Deficiency conditions are those of “too little”. Deficiency patterns are usually of a more chronic course, more frequently seen in the older dog. When we see a dog that is weak, depressed, lethargic, and easily fatigued, we’re likely dealing with a Qi (pronounced “chi”) deficiency. Qi is similar to “life force” energy responsible for all physiologic activities so where there is weakness, there must be a Qi deficiency.

Blood is a bodily fluid that provides nourishment and moisture to the body and the organs. When the blood is deficient, the dog may have dandruff, dry and cracked skin, nose, paw pads and may have poor stamina. Where there is dandruff there must be a Blood and/or Yin deficiency.

Yin and Yang are opposites that are interdependent and cannot exist without the other. Yin is responsible for cooling, like an air-conditioner in the summer. When a dog is Yin deficient it lacks the ability to cool down and will show signs

of feeling hot, panting, increased thirst, seeking cool areas in the home and with heat we get dryness which can result in dandruff.

Yang is responsible for warming, like a fireplace in the winter. When a dog is Yang deficient it lacks the ability to warm up and their body can feel cold and lethargic. A Yang deficiency is equivalent to a Qi deficiency plus coldness. Where there is cold there must be a Yang deficiency. The Yang deficient dog may seek warm areas in the house, feel cold to touch and be weak. When there is disharmony and imbalance within the body (between the Five Elements) or between the body and the external environment, the result is disease.

Food therapy, Herbal therapy, Acupuncture and Tui-Na are all available to help restore balance and harmony within the body and between the body and the outside world to maintain health and wellness.

“It matters not whether medicine is old or new, so long as it brings about a cure. It matters not whether theories are Eastern or Western, so long as they prove to be true” 

Please stay tuned for next week’s blog…..Understanding the Five Energies of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine…Part 3… Chinese Pattern Diagnosis in Action

Michel Selmer, DVM, MS, CTCVMP – “The Caring Vet”

Michel Selmer

Dr. Michel Selmer is an Integrative Veterinarian and one of a handful of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Practitioners in the world that holds a Masters Degree. Dr. Michel Selmer attended Long Island University and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology. Read More...
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